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You can help a crazy mother out

11 Oct

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve been cheating on you. Well, not you, exactly; I’ve been cheating on Snide Reply.

See, instead of writing about my life, it’s ups and downs, the funny things my kids are doing, the obscene things my iPad is saying, the people who are driving me crazy, I’ve been writing about being crazy. And I’ve been doing it somewhere else.

But I’m ready for you to join me there.

Yesterday, I launched a new blog that I hope will grow into a thriving digital community where parents who have mental illnesses can go to find help, information, entertainment and camaraderie.

It’s called Crazy Good Parent and it was born out of my own frustration at not being able to find the kind of information I need as someone with bipolar disorder who is trying to be the best parent she can. There is plenty of Internet help for parents, for people with mental illness, and for people parenting people with mental illness. But we parents managing kids, work, family, marriage, etc., while also managing our minds? Well, we’re not really feeling the love on the Web.

So, I started my own hangout for people like me—crazygoodparent.com. Come on over and bring your crazy mother (and father) friends, too.

Janice

This is what it’s like

13 Mar

I often feel  people who know me don’t really understand what it’s like to have bipolar disorder. Sometimes I don’t even understand, but I’m starting to work that out.

Here is a post from another blogger with bipolar disorder that very accurately describes one aspect of living with bipolar disorder. I hope you’ll read it, especially if you are close to me or are close to someone who is bipolar.

http://manicmuses.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/the-energy-post/

Just another (not) Manic Monday

28 Jan

Baby-Horse-Running-Wallpaper-240x180I want my mania back.

Now, if you’re normal, you probably can’t understand why someone with Bipolar Disorder would even contemplate wanting a ride to the top of the roller coaster, particularly when what’s waiting on the other side of the climb is a drop into depression.

Even if you’re Bipolar, you might not understand remembering mania wistfully. Getting deeply in debt, driving drunk or high, having sex with strangers…why would anyone want to live that way? Certainly, I’m in no hurry to return to my wicked, pre-medicated ways, but the life of lethargy I’ve been living lately has seriously outworn its welcome.

A little mania and my house wouldn’t look like, well, like someone was too depressed to straighten. The cleaning ladies are scheduled to come tomorrow, but even that isn’t uplifting. Without straightening, it won’t even look like they came except for the telltale trails of a vacuum cleaner. Add in the fact that we can’t afford the mostly ineffectual crew but don’t have the heart to fire the now 70-year old woman who has been cleaning our home since my son was two and who just lost her retirement savings in a series of ill-advised real estate transactions, and my morose mood is more understandable.

A little mania and I wouldn’t be feeling like a parental failure because my son—who carries my genetic code—barely scraped together the four Cs and an A on his recent report card while my daughter—adopted from China—came home with all As . . .ok, one B+. Sure, my son also had an A in PE, but PE doesn’t count. I know, I know . . .a class focused on activity suits his ADHD brain, PE is an important class in a society full of couch potatoes , an A is an A. Yada, yada, yada. And I know that lots of kids get Cs, even lots of kids we know and lots of kids we know who got into colleges they wanted to go to. Cs aren’t Fs, but that’s the problem. To me, Cs are just Fs with a silent F. Unkind and unfair, I know, and further evidence that I richly deserve the depression I’m in.

A little mania and my creative well wouldn’t have run dry. I’d have posted witty commentary on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, how I came to love the running skirt, watching my husband writhe in pain. Well, maybe that last one wouldn’t have been witty. I might even have finally figured out how to get my son’s obscene sense of humor featured in a blog with a PG13 rating.

Just a little mania, that’s all I’m looking for here. Of course, there’s no such thing as a little mania. Oh, at first I think there could be, that I can keep the momentum from building out of control. But it always escalates so that what started as a trot through the park turns into a wild gallop and a crashing fall.

So, I took my meds. I let the house be cluttered beyond recognition. I sat my ass down at the computer and I wrote, even though writing was the last thing I thought I could do, and pulled these 600 plus words out of some secret place even I didn’t know existed. Pretty soon, I’ll put on my running gear—it might even be warm enough for a skirt today—then get my ass off the chair and onto the trail. I’ll ignore that the unseasonably warm weather is most likely caused by global climate change which will lead to the early demise of our planet. At least, I’ll try.

I’m sure all of that will help. But I’ll still miss my mania.

Room with a view

19 Oct

Sometimes, words fail. Sometimes, it feels like everything fails. And then, sometimes, it takes so little to start to turn it around.

My office window is behind me as I write, so I keep the blinds drawn to cut the glare. This morning it’s gray and drizzly. I cursed the darkness, thinking, I need to get more light in here, and imagining a trip to Ikea. Then I remembered the blinds; they are closed so often I don’t even think of them. I opened the blinds to a scene from the garden I’ve neglected for months.

Happy Birthday, Dear Mom

11 Oct

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. No, not a day when everyone on earth spends the day trying to act calm, stable and happy, but a day devoted to encouraging people to discuss mental health issues. This year’s topic was depression. Not to belittle the global crisis of depression, but I guess all the other mental disorders got to take a break.

Most of you know that I am bipolar and may wonder why I didn’t write about what it’s like to be bipolar on World Mental Health Day. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, I’ve got all week. Mental Health Awareness Week in the United States runs from October 7th through the 13th. I am American and I’m writing this on the 11th, so I figure I’m covered. Even if I’m not, National Mental Health Month is in May. Of course, a mental health month puts a lot of pressure on us; I’m not sure I can keep my mania and depression from popping up for an entire month even with meds.

I didn’t write about mental health—mine or anyone else’s—because yesterday was my mother’s birthday. When she was alive, I hosted a beef-centered dinner at my house. I did this because I loved my mother, but also because I spent years listening to her complain that no one ever did anything for her birthday and she was not going to plan her own party. And she loved beef.

Yesterday, we had fried chicken for dinner. That is not as contrary as it sounds. My mother was from the South and, while she made really good fried chicken herself, she also loved Popeye’s. My kids don’t really like beef—I think my daughter may become a vegetarian soon—but they like Popeye’s.  So, fried chicken for dinner.

I think my mother would have approved, but there were many things in my life that she didn’t really like a whole lot.

My hair? Not curly enough. Never mind that it is stick straight, fine as frog fur and most likely inherited from her. When my hair was permed, my mother loved it.

My housekeeping? Notice “housekeeping” and “Ha!” both start with an H. But when Mom was scheduled to visit, I became a dervish, scrubbing counters with hot water, vacuuming lampshades, polishing bathroom fixtures, arranging flowers. A friend once pointed out that it wasn’t like Queen Elizabeth was going to pop in to use my powder room. If only, I thought, if only!

My mouth? Far too many F-bombs came out of it to please my Mom. Actually, any F-bomb was unacceptable. According to her, I swear like a longshoreman. I doubt she ever met one; I’m not convinced she even knew what they did but she was convinced that I talked like one.

My mother didn’t swear . . .much. I think I heard her use the S-word twice. The most memorable instance was during a sewing session when she repeatedly tried to do a tricky seam. Finally, she got it right only to realize she’d sewed the thing to the shirt she was wearing.

There were things my mother approved of, though.

My intelligence, for one. When Geraldine Ferraro ran with Walter Mondale, my grandmother was appalled. How, in her mind, could a woman be tolerated one heartbeat away from the presidency? My mother was incensed. “I think a woman would be a wonderful president. Janice would be a wonderful president!” I might be, but there are far too many skeletons in my closet. Hell, my skeletons are out on the front lawn doing the Macarena.

My cooking. My mother loved the beef-centered dishes I made, but she loved the Williamsburg Orange cake I made every year even more. She liked my snacks, too. When my sister and I still lived at home, we’d watch late night movies with Mom, everything from Frankenstein to It Happened One Night. During some commercial break, I’d want a snack. I’d offer one to my mother on my way to the kitchen. “No, thank you” was invariably her response. On my return, she’d take a look at my snack and say, “Oh, that looks good!” an unspoken yet undeniable request for said snack.

My spirit. I’m honest—blunt, some would say—and pretty funny. If something strikes me as humorous, I’ll say it even if it’s highly inappropriate. My mother loved this about me. She loved it so much that she worried the meds I needed to stay alive would dampen it. They never did.

My mother died a slow, painful, ugly death of COPD. But while her disease chipped away at her freedom and health, she adapted and kept going. When breathing became difficult at night, she used an oxygen concentrator while she slept. When climbing the stairs at her home became difficult, she got a stair lift. When she couldn’t walk around the mall, she got oxygen in a bottle and a wheeled cart to drag it around behind her. When even that became difficult, she learned how to surf the ‘Net to visit her favorite stores.

My mother even found a reason to like Depends. Getting to the bathroom from the couch before you’ve got to go is something you likely take for granted. But when you can’t breathe, there’s no guarantee you’ll get there in time. “These Depends are great!” my mother told me. “I never have to worry if I’ll get to the potty in time.”

We joked that Mom was the Energizer Bunny; she kept going and going. Even in the end, she didn’t give up. It was left to us to turn off the machines keeping her alive.

I don’t need a particular day to make me aware of mental health issues; I live with them everyday. So, while yesterday may have been a mental health day for the rest of the world, I spent it with memories of my mom.

Running, Writing and the 20-point Shot

1 Oct

Waiting to start

“Give me your hands,” she said, holding her own out, palms up.

Confused, I took them nonetheless. Was this some kind of congratulatory high-five? I wondered. No, this felt comforting, her warm hands making me realize how cold my own were.

Another woman grabbed at my waist, slowing me when all I wanted was to keep moving. “I know it’s hard,” she said, “but we need the bottom part.” Then, she ripped off the bottom of my racing bib and with that, they released me to walk off the momentum and adrenaline of finishing my first race.

I started running a little more than two years ago. I’ve logged probably 2000 miles since then. My first runs consisted of sixty seconds of shuffling like an eighty-year old woman interspersed with ninety-minute segments of walking. I recall the first sixty-second shuffle vividly. Ok, time to run, I thought, as the voice from my C25K app directed. I can do this. I look ridiculous. I hate running. “Walk,” the app directed after what seemed an eternity. I walked, then shuffled, then walked again for twenty minutes.

Yesterday, I ran for thirty minutes and 6/100ths of a second without stopping, except to slow down twice for a cup of water from a Cub Scout by the side of the road. I finished second in my age group.

I started blogging at about the same time I started running. Both were things I did because I thought I ought. Running would get me the bone-strengthening impact I’d been missing swimming laps. Blogging would give me a way of exercising my mind while kicking the cobwebs out of my tech savvy. And, both filled the massive amount of time I had on my hands while looking for a teaching job in a crashed economy.

Running and writing have become integral parts of my life, but for some reason, I’m able to be more disciplined in my running. I find it far easier to get my butt—and legs, of course—out the door three times a week than I do to park my butt—and my typing fingers, of course—in front of my computer everyday. OK, that’s not completely true. It’s very easy to park in front of the computer, what’s not so easy is doing it to write.

I’ve read many stories of successful people translating skills learned from one discipline to another, where they also inevitably become successful. I believe it’s possible for me; I believe my running regularity and success should make it easier to develop discipline, and achieve success, in a writing career. But so far, I haven’t done it.

The stakes are much higher for my writing. No one pays me to run and no one is depending on me to be paid when I run. People are depending on me being able to make money writing. My husband wants to retire, my kids will go to college. We need, desperately need, to be out of debt.

And yet, I hesitate.  The thought of cold calling prospects leaves me breathless with anxiety. Writing letters of introduction takes hours of torment and deliberation over every word. Networking events? Weeks of self-pep-talking to get me there.

I know the answer is going to be something like a C25K program for writers. I could even say I’ve stalled because I’m not good at inching toward a goal; this weekend proved that isn’t true.

When I watch basketball and my favorite team is behind by 20 points, I wish for the 20-point shot. But, there is no 20-point shot, not in basketball, running or writing. I’m going to have to start writing professionally the way I did running,  sixty seconds of shuffling at a time.

 

Yesterday was the second anniversary of starting my blog. I’ve gone from approximately 45 readers to nearly 300 since then and I thank you all for your loyal support.

 

i Don’t Get the iPhone Lines

20 Sep

They’re lined up all over the country, hunkered down in their folding watch-the-kids-at-T-ball chairs. In my town, they’re bundled up in Bears jackets and hats. Some are even wearing gloves. While they don’t quite qualify to be committed to the local mental health center, everyone passing by them wonders, “Are they crazy?”

I see them, amazed by their dedication and devotion and I think, “Wow, there really ought to be a name for people like that. How about, say, ‘losers’?”

And what are they waiting for? The iPhone 5. Now, I love Apple products. In our house, we have an iMac, two MacBook Pros and two MacBooks. We have an iPod Classic, two iPod Touches and, yes, an iPhone. I love Apple products because they work and they’re backed by great service. Don’t get on my back about PCs. Been down that road and I’m never going back. You can if you want to and I won’t care at all. Besides, this isn’t a post about who makes better computers or phones or MP3 devices.

This is a post about people obsessed with stuff. People so obsessed with stuff that they are willing to sit in line for stuff so they can say they were the first to have the stuff. Frankly, I don’t understand why there is more than one person in any of these lines. If you’re not the first person in line, why bother? You’ll be the second person to get the iPhone 5. Where’s the glory in that? I imagine the water cooler conversation going something like this:

Julie: Hey, Joe! I see you’ve got the new iPhone 5.

Joe: Yeah, Julie. Sat in line for four days for this little beauty.

Julie: Wow! So you were the first person in Naperville to get an iPhone 5?

Joe: Actually, no, I was second. So, kind of the silver medal in iPhones.

Julie (backing away): Yeah, well, good for you, Joe. Bet you can’t wait to show it to the guys in your RPG meetup.

The thing that really puzzles me about the losers people waiting for the iPhone 5 are the diametrically opposed concepts involved in waiting days to buy an iPhone 5. iPhones are expensive, $199 without anything else, such as the talk, text and data package you also need. So, you probably want to be employed for that to work out. Most of the people I know who are employed don’t have days to sit on their ass in a folding chair at the Apple Store. So, in my mind a bunch of unemployed nerds are sitting in front of a store so they can be the first to buy a product they can’t afford.

The iPhone losers buyers are up there, in my mind, with the people who get up at three o’clock in the morning so they can be the first in line when the big box stores open at 5 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving. Why? So they can get incredible deals on stuff, stuff for Christmas, the Stuffapalooza of Stuff.

People have been shopping for stuff the day after Christmas since the three Kings hopped on their camels and hoofed it back to the Orient. And yet, my local news always reports on people shopping for stuff on the day after Christmas as if it were the Second Coming. My favorite part of the news reports is the interview with the happy, exhausted shopper, who brags about saving $500 on a $1500 flat-screen TV.

No, Ma’am you didn’t save $500. You didn’t save any money at all. You spent $1500.

Maybe I’m sensitive to the stuff obsession because one of my favorite activities during a bipolar mania was shopping. I racked up a mountain of debt while I was high. Every one of my personal Black Fridays was followed by depression, made even blacker by the aftermath of my manic episode.

Anyone who says we are no longer a hunter-gatherer society hasn’t taken a good look around. The people featured on “Hoarders” are only the most extreme of us. Evidence of our hunting and gathering is everywhere. A two-car garage isn’t enough anymore. Now we need three—one for each of our cars and a third for stuff. Toy boxes can no longer contain our kids’ stuff; now we need entire rooms. We have so much stuff that we have entire stores devoted to containing our stuff.

Recently, we sold the home I grew up in. While it was emotionally wrenching, I expected that. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming magnitude of stuff. Faced with getting rid of an entire life’s worth, I realized how truly insidious stuff is. It slinks into our lives one shopping bag or birthday or Christmas at a time. We suck it into our existence, shoving other stuff aside to fit it all in, then go about slowly accumulating more and more stuff.

This time tomorrow, losers people all over the world will call themselves winners in the “Who Got the iPhone First” game. Good for them, I guess. But me? There is nothing in the world that I want so much that I’ll sit on my butt in front of a store for days on end. Now, if you just happened to pick up an extra one . . .

Head of the Class

9 Aug

Image: Designtechtonics.biz

Not too long ago, in my newspaper column, I wrote about my son’s friends being given cars by their parents. I had heard that kids with cars—and I don’t mean Power Wheels—was pretty common here, but didn’t really believe it until one newly minted driver after another was given a car. And we’re not talking old cars in funky colors, like the mustard yellow Pinto that was my first car. Two of my son’s friends were given new Priuses. Or is it Prii?

I wrote that no kid should be given a car, especially a kid who just learned how to drive. Let that kid buy a car and he’d appreciate it, care for it, drive it with caution, fill it with gas using his own money. Until he could do that, I wrote, my son would be asking to borrow the family car. I mentioned that we can’t afford to buy our son any car, but even if we could, there’s no way in hell that we would.

I was accused of having class envy. You need to understand where I live to fully appreciate this accusation. Money magazine has named Naperville one of the 10 best places in America to raise children—more than once! There are a lot of reasons to like Naperville: good schools, nice houses, lovely downtown near the historic district. A river even runs through it.

In Naperville, you could live here.

With all that good publicity from Money magazine, lots of people moved here in the past 20 years or so. So, you’ve got the old timers who mostly live in the old neighborhoods. Back when I was a kid, houses in those neighborhoods were very affordable for a young family; my own family almost moved there. If you moved here in the good old days, your $25,000 house is probably worth more than $500,000 now. Wealthier people have moved here and built even more expensive houses. And less wealthy people started moving here when builders started turning farmland into subdivisions; I live in one of those. Today, we even have town houses, condos and (gasp) apartments.

Or you could live here.

Or here.

What started as a pretty nice small (white) town has become a city of more than 140,000 people replete with every race, religion and socio-economic grouping. We even have a prostitution ring and a heroin problem.

In that context, I understand the anxiety that pushed an obviously wealthy long-time resident to think that when I said “ there is no way I’m giving my son 24/7 access to something that is a proven killer, particularly of boys” what I actually meant is “rich people suck.”

I don’t think rich people suck—well, not all of them. There are rich people that suck and poor people that suck. I’m equal opportunity when it comes to thinking someone sucks. So, me with class envy? Nah.

I have had several other types of envy. Like kid envy. There are children who make their beds every morning, get their own breakfast and go happily to school. There are children who join in school activities, practice their music lessons, do their homework and help around the house. There are children who respect their parents, walk the dog, get good grades and brush their teeth. These are not my children.

Frequently, I find myself wishing that my son were more involved in activities at school, such as anything. And I would love for my daughter’s room to not look like Lord Voldemort could hide in it. But, then I wouldn’t have a son who calls me on his cell phone and says, “Hey, Mom. I’m sitting on a couch on the corner of Sanctuary and Lowell.” When I drive to said corner, I do indeed find my son sitting on a discarded sofa, kicking back like a football fan on a Sunday afternoon.

I have had penis envy, too. When I worked in public relations, I made a fairly decent salary. We bought our first house on it. But, if I had a penis, I would have made $25,000 more. That would have also made us a gay couple, but we’re ok with that. Hell, we adopted our second child and lived in Oak Park for a while.

Do I even need to mention shoe envy? Massive quantities of shoe envy here. My sister and her daughter have truly gorgeous shoes and they wear the same size, doubling the number of shoes available to each of them. Not fair, right? When my husband finally got his PR business off the ground, I could buy truly gorgeous shoes, too. I paid lots of money for some pairs. I still swoon over the Italian ones made completely of leather. Does that mean I envy myself my shoes? I think it might.

I certainly envy my daughter’s shoes. She has narrow feet. With a lot of obese children in the US, they make cheap shoes really wide these days. So, the Empress—I mean, my daughter—can only shop at the pricey children’s shoe store in town, or Nordstrom.

But the envy I’m most likely to suffer is Writer’s Envy. Like most writers, I read a lot. I read all kinds of things, from crappy fantasy to classic literature. And when I find truly good writing, I want to crawl in a hole and never touch my computer keyboard again. I feel like Mike Myers and Dana Carvey meeting Aerosmith in Wayne’s World. “I am not worthy,” I think, “I am not worthy.”

Being bipolar actually has its benefits in dealing with Writer’s Envy. Reading something truly fabulous will send me into a tailspin. But all I have to do is wait for the next mania train to pull into the station and I’ve got myself convinced I can write a bestseller . . .in a month . . .while still working . . .and raising my kids. You jealous yet?

Spare the rod? Spare me!

10 Jul

Yesterday, I wrote in my newspaper column about spanking and the fact that it, quite literally, can drive your kids crazy. Well, I stirred a little nest, I guess. I’ve been berated for humiliating my children and been informed the spanking can be appropriate. What do you think?

http://naperville.patch.com/articles/the-bare-truth-about-spanking-it-affects-mental-health

Check it out! I guest blogged!

29 Jun

Ordinarily, I eschew exclamation points in my writing but, golly gee, someone asked me to write for his blog and I did it! You can check out a bit of my experience parenting my son through one of the darkest times of both of our lives here:  http://blackboxwarnings.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/a-tale-of-two-meds-and-one-teen/

Read the other posts, too. The man who started the blog is also dealing with a son with ADHD and the meds that come along with it. And there are others who posted as well. It’s a valuable, developing resource for those of us taking drugs with black box warnings (means they can lead to all kinds of nasty side effects, like suicidal ideation and other fun things) and parenting kids taking those drugs.

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